Ottawa tiny house community
Healthy Living

Calling All Citizens! Calling All Citizens!

If you’re not already in a community you will WANT to consider this and if you are in a suburban community you will REALLY WANT to consider this. If you are not in a community at all, you will APPRECIATE this…

As humans, we are naturally social creatures hard wired to engage with people in one form or another. With modern technology, this engagement is increasingly less than in the past. But we stand to gain so much when we come together.

Our vision of an EkoCommunity is a vibrant community that has the flexibility build in for as much, or as little, privacy as its members want, and where there is shared satisfaction in living in a supremely comfortable and healthy home.

There is an amazing side benefit to living in a shared community: it’s actually a much more economical way to live! With rising land costs, our cost-of-living (or the cost of our dreams of living on more land) has shot through the roof! With a shared community property, these costs are brought back down to ‘normal’. The cost of a commonly shared building is usually included.

Communities of the 21st-century should be communities that share a piece of land and are either net zero or self sustainable:

Net zero – a home that produces the same amount of energy as it uses (usually with solar panels);
Self sustainable – off grid with community owned energy production systems that are, of course, sources of renewable energy.

Living in a shared community, free of energy dependence (off-the-grid) and affordably, is surely a great way to go forward. The best part is, most cities and townships accept these types of communities with open arms, as long as the property is zoned residential, of course!

What is your vision of a designed community?

It does take a particular group of people to come together and decide on a property and a general style of home/buildings, but when people agree, great things happen!

We’re here to help if you can see the way to finding you group and making it happen. Add your name to our EkoCommunities list, and we can help connect you with like minded folks! We’ve also got the home technology and plans to help you see your vision through.

BBQ in the rain
Landscaping & Gardening

Rain proofing your BBQ and other fun things

BBQ in the rain

Photo from The Guardian

This super wet summer is definitely providing some challenges in the garden and in planning get-togethers. Leave it to the British to offer some good advice on barbecuing in wet weather: How to Rain-Proof Your Barbecue from the Guardian.

As Canadians who camp, we’re not too phased by tending to the BBQ in the rain, but it’s a great reminder that a well placed tarp can make a world of difference. We expect to do this when we go camping, but this year it may be something worth doing in the backyard too if you normally enjoy grilling without any cover. This video offers a great primer on 4 knots that are great to know whenever and wherever you might be setting up your tarp.

4 Knots to Set Up a Tarp

Rainy Day S’Mores

Recipe for Rainy day s'mores

From Savoring the Good

If foul weather conspires to simply keep you feeling housebound for a spell, there are loads of recipes for Rainy Day S’mores on the ‘net, and you could certainly start with this one from Savoring the Good: Rainy Day S’mores in 10 Minutes.

Here’s to summer fun, even when the weather doesn’t go our way!

EkoBuilt's passive house solar engine
EkoModel News, Energy & Household Trends, Energy Efficiency, Passive House facts

Reflecting on a warm winter in the EkoModel Home

The sub-title for this post really should be “how comfortable is a passive house in winter?” And the answer is: very!

Okay, so the sun has been shining and we’re feeling the summer’s warmth, but cast your mind back to the long, grey winter we had here in the Ottawa Valley. Not for long, just long enough to picture the environment in which the EkoModel passive house spent its first winter.

Although the average temperature for the area was roughly -5.5C from December through March, December and January both saw some supremely cold days: -28C the low in December, -25C the low in January. Throughout the period we kept the house at steady 21C for daytime and evening; overnight, with no heating, the temperature would make a gentle fall to 18 or 19C by morning.

Having lived in homes in the past where keeping the temperature at 21C would have been too costly, this round the clock comfort was the revelation we hoped it would be. Both floors of the home, including the upstairs bedrooms, maintained these temperatures – no ‘cool spots’ as in many older homes.

The Eko Solar Engine - passive house infographic

Click to learn about the EkoBuilt solar engine that heats (and cools) this passive house

All of this was achieved using an average of just 31.75 kWh per day – which may not seem that low, until you remember that this passive house has NO FURNACE. That hydro-electricity usage simply represents the operation of the ‘solar engine’ components (including a fresh air exchanger, and an air-to-air heating and cooling pump) of the house, and daily living (lights, cooking, heating water*, PC and television usage) of a family of five.

So, our total energy bills for the four deep winter months was $801.48 (or $200/month).

*We heat our water to 120C.

An interesting note on Sunny Days

If it was a sunny day and we had approximately six hours of sun or more pouring through the south facing windows, we did not need to use the heating system at all.

The sun had no problem raising the temperature of the house from 19°C in the morning to about 24°C in the afternoon, in which case the temperature would drop to about 22°C in the evening and hover at about 20°C in the morning. Amazing!

 

What we’ll do differently next year

Overall, the house performed as expected, and the very low energy usage (seen here) and bills, even in a cold, grey winter, are great practical evidence. Less easy to share, but no less significant, is the supreme comfort that we enjoyed all winter long.

Hydry usage for the EkoBuilt passive house in winter 2017

Looking ahead to next year, we’re considering installing an ethanol (biofuel) fireplace. These units are a very simple and clean alternative to wood burning fireplaces and woodstoves, and their benefits are amplified in a passive house, where much less heat input is required to warm the home, and a fresh oxygen supply with good airflow is continually available.

There is a great overview of ethanol fireplaces on Houzz, and again we’d underscore the greater benefit to a passive house over a conventional build. In brief, this heating method has a very small environmental footprint, is low maintenance and attractive. We see this heat source as a great alternative when sunshine is severely limited, as it was this past winter in the Ottawa Valley. Any successful system has a built-in backup, and this looks like a great way to round out the solar engine that is driving our passive house.

Questions about the passive house performance?

If you have questions or thoughts about our passive home’s winter performance, please do feel free to comment here or contact us. We’re keen to share this information as clearly as possible in order to help homeowners to understand the huge benefits of building a passive house.

Ottawa passive house by EkoBuilt
Healthy Living

EkoBuilt featured in Capital Magazine

A nice overview of Passive House offerings in the Ottawa area featuring EkoBuilt has been published in the current issue of Capital, the magazine of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and business community. The article by Matt Curtis appears on page 22.

It’s great to see this kind of coverage and we’re delighted that EkoBuilt’s Trillium model is featured in the article’s picture.

Quick links

Article from Capital Magazine on passive house builders in Ottawa

Solar panels and energy tax in Canada
Energy & Household Trends, Solar Power

Canada needs a unified strategy on taxing energy

The CBC recently carried a story, P.E.I. man wants to know why he pays HST on electricity he generates himself, which left us scratching our heads. Honestly, this poor guy lives in a province where oil consumption for heating houses is exempt from HST, yet electricity is not, and legislation requires that he be taxed for generating it. Worse still? This man, whose solar panels are producing more electricity than he needs for his home, allowing him to sell the remainder through net metering to the grid, notes that the province’s customers then pay HST on what they use.

An article like this one illustrates approaches to carbon pricing in Alberta and Ontario, where oil is very much subject to taxing: http://www.macleans.ca/economy/economicanalysis/what-carbon-prices-in-alberta-and-ontario-will-cost-… Although taxed federally, as of late 2016 electricity consumption in Ontario no longer has the provincial portion (8%) of HST applied to consumers’ bills, whereas electricity pricing in Alberta remains steady following recent carbon pricing shifts.

Part of the problem with rationalizing energy pricing and taxation, of course, is the huge variation in energy generation infrastructure across the provinces and territories. Unlike Ontario, whose electricity is “90% emissions-free, thanks in part to Ontario’s early action to close coal-fired power generation” (source: https://www.ontario.ca/page/cap-and-trade-ontario), P.E.I. is in a much less fortunate position, with no active hydro-electric station, and a reliance on both out-of-province sources of electricity, as well as two in-province sources that are fired by diesel and oil.

None of the above really helps to explain how P.E.I. can tax someone who is generating clean electricity to contribute to a grid that is sorely lacking in local, clean sources of electricity, nor how it can fail to tax oil usage. The CBC story further explains that P.E.I.’s government and Maritime Electric claim that “federal tax law requires HST be charged to homeowners involved in net metering…[and that] homeowners could claim back the HST by registering as a business.” Are there any more hoops that homeowners should jump through in the name of nonsense?

While it may be understandably challenging for Canada to develop a unified and logical strategy on carbon taxing, there is an undeniable need for green solutions like solar electricity generation to be supported, not hindered! The future needs to be carbon-free, and solar panels are helping us to get there, along with individuals like the P.E.I. man who decided to build the most energy efficient home he could afford, unaware that the government would penalize him for doing so.

Bee in purple wildflower
Landscaping & Gardening

Not just another year in the garden

Each spring in the garden represents a fresh start. This year our fresh start is on a bigger, blanker canvas. We’ve now got siding on the house, but everything else outside is pretty much up for grabs! Here’s where we might look for some inspiration as we get started:

Garden Days – this 10-day celebration of National Garden Day comes in mid June (9 – 18 June, 2017) and provides great opportunities to visit local gardens and other gardening spots; check out the website for activities in your area.

Tips for planting a bee-friendly gardenBee in purple wildflower (David Suzuki) – with honeybees and other bee populations in decline, it’s a no brainer to make sure our gardens contain plants that will attract and sustain bees.

There are lots of great tips available online, but a good starting point is the David Suzuki Foundation.

2017 Trends in Garden Design – this overview from Garden Design Magazine is out of the U.S., but many of the trends and looks apply to us north of the border. This year heralds a return to a more natural aesthetic in the garden after quite a few seasons of more manicured, controlled outdoor spaces; this includes outdoor furnishings. Recent trends like attractive edible plants have grown to include natural dye gardens (yup, growing plants that you can use to dye yarns, textiles and clothing). Cool!

Sourcing local…everywhere you look, more and more local seed producers are turning up, making it easier than ever to select plants – ornamental and edible alike – that will thrive where you live.

Want to choose garlic that will actually flourish in your garden? Find a local gardener who’s been nurturing a local variety for years and ‘borrow’ a few bulbs that you can plant in your own garden. The same applies to any plants you want to introduce to your garden.

The Wild GardenIn the Ottawa region, we’re intrigued by emerging players like The Wild Garden, which offers a Monthly Herbal Box program, walks and workshops, and other opportunities to learn more about native wild foods and herbs.

Endangered native species…we’ll consider planting trees and plants that are native but under threat. The Butternut tree is a great example in Eastern Ontario. Native to this part of Canada for thousands of years, it has been threatened by Butternut Canker Disease. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority runs a Butternut Recovery Program that’s worth exploring if you live in the area.

Oh, and anything we choose will likely have some element of ‘low maintenance’ built in. I think we’re all looking for that!

What’s inspiring you in your outdoor spaces this year?

Wood engineered siding on the EkoModel Home
EkoModel News, House Design

Engineered Wood Siding: Beautiful & Sustainable

In spring 2017 we installed siding on the EkoModel Home. If you’ve followed the build of this passive house that we’re using as a showroom for what we can build, you’ll be familiar with its two-storey, flat-roofed visage.

This 2,506 square foot home includes 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and beautiful, sun-filled rooms from its south-facing rear orientation. When it came time to clad the exterior, we wanted to choose a product with a high degree of renewable or recycled content that would also be:

  • affordable
  • a natural material
  • extremely low maintenance, and – most important of all –
  • look great!

We choose an engineered wood siding product, GOODStyle by Goodfellow (a Canadian company), that comes with a 40-year guarantee and has 100% recycled content.

Offered in planks, shingles or panels, GOODStyle siding is available in a vast array of colours. We opted for a mix of grey and mustard tones, giving the house depth and interest. You can realize your own perfect exterior with the many options and colourways available from Goodfellow.

For more detail, view the GOODStyle by Goodfellow brochure.

Before and After Photos

The rear, south-facing aspect of the house is where the common living areas are focused.

The front of the home, which is north-facing, has smaller windows.

Goodfellow Engineered Siding Photo Gallery

Find out more about the EkoModel Home passive house, and Goodfellow siding. Contact us today!

Graphic courtesy of TheFix.com
Energy Efficiency, Home Building trends, House Design, Simply Sustainable

Add a little inspiration to your spring

It’s feeling like spring really has sprung, and it seems like a good idea to share some of the inspirational ideas we’ve been storing away over the winter. Fun and clever stuff that will get the cogs in your brain whirring!

Making your old wood ‘pallet-able’

How to upcycle pallets into “rustic-industrial” stuff for your home

Pallet safety infographicThis article from theFix.com was recently shared on Treehugger.

It helps to determine which pallets are safe to use, and which are not, and also contains a fun and informative infographic on how to prepare pallets for whatever project you might have in mind.

Also from theFix.com is Home Improvement Projects You Can Do with Reclaimed Wood, which gets the same cool infographic treatment, making for a quick and lively review of some neat design options.

 


Passive house on wheels anyone?

Cargo van conversionDigital nomad’s ultra-minimalist van conversion includes hidden bike rack (Video)

We’ve all seen our fill of tiny home projects, including many models designed for hitting the road. This sleek cargo van conversion is a really cool addition to the options available to anyone wanting to live on the road.


Just plain cool

10 Ways to Repurpose Vintage Furniture (Apartment Therapy)
All-in-one cube is ‘room within a room’ that hides bed, bike, closet & office (Treehugger)
Genius Trash to Treasure Crafts (Good Housekeeping)

Happy Spring!

Healthy Brain & Body Show
Healthy Living

Ottawa set to host The Healthy Brain and Body Show

The Healthy Brain and Body Show is coming to the EY Centre in Ottawa on April 22 – 23, 2017. The show will focus on total health, allowing participants to discover innovative products and services. The hope is that anyone who attends will leave the show feeling inspired!

The show will present expert speakers on nutrition, energy, wellness and related topics;  100+ booths; demos; samples; and interactive exhibits. Other highlights include:

  • The Functional Training Academy will be holding TRX demos every 30 minutes at the show! TRX Training draws on leading-edge research and best practices from the military, pro sports, and academic institutions. It is a great workout and a whole lot of fun. Drop by and try it for free!
  • Demos running the gamut from massage to makeovers – plan to leave the show feeling relaxed and rejuvenated!
  • A beautifully lit, quiet meditation area run by Simply Meditation, a not-for-profit in Ottawa who have a simple mission: to make meditation accessible to anyone, anywhere.
  • Nutritious and delicious food tastings.
  • Escape Manor will be setting up a cage in the show! You must work together as a team and use your brains and instincts to figure out a way to escape. Put your skills to the test with this super fun activity as you take a break from shopping. The cage is only $5!

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted at the door in support of H.E.L.P, an organization which helps military and first responders affected by PTSD.

The most important relationship in our lives is the one we have with ourselves. My vision for The Healthy Brain and Body Show is to create a place where people can come together and learn how their mental, emotional and physical health are intimately interconnected and affect each other profoundly.
Sarah Roberts – Co Founder of The Show

We’ll be attending the show and look forward to seeing you there!

Click for full details of The Healthy Brain and Body Show.

Ottawa home builder EkoBuilt at the Ottawa Home & Garden Show 2017
EkoModel News, Home Building trends

Your questions answered!

The Ottawa Home & Garden Show last weekend was a tremendous experience. As ever, we enjoyed many rich conversations and answered a lot of questions. We thought we’d share some background here for our newest readers.

Who we are and how we are different?

EkoBuilt is a company committed to building homes design for the 21st-century. This means strikingly designed and deeply comfortable homes that are easily and cheaply heated and cooled with electricity.

Why do we do what we do?

It is our goal to get anyone and everyone in a quality passive house as affordably as possible. Our minimalist approach to design and investment in finding the right products/materials/systems have made this abundantly possible.

What exactly do we do?

First and foremost, we design and build low-energy homes that need no furnace or boiler.

How is this possible?

Super insulated, airtight and vapour tight construction.

What do we use for heat and air conditioning?

Even in a low energy home, heating and cooling systems are needed, but in a passive house, we just need a simple air to air source heat pump which is cheap to install and cheap to operate. These systems are not viable in conventional homes because the heating and cooling demands are too high.

On average, a passive house in winter with no sun and -30°C needs approximately 6 kWh of energy per day to keep house comfortably at 21 degrees. That’s amazing!

What about fresh air?

Even homes built to standard code require an HRV [heat recovery fresh air ventilator]. The difference is that conventional HRV units are 65% efficient, whereas passive house HRVs are 95% efficient.

The passive house unit also removes humidity which is important because these homes are vapour tight.

Find out more

If you’re new to EkoBuilt and our site, you can check out the Passive House and Coach House sections. The blog is also a deep source of detailed content on all of the above.